An Australian home in the heart of Singapore

Simon and Ai Ping lives in a 5-room HDB flat in Jalan Bukit Merah
Simon Kearney, a 48-year-old Agency CEO may not have a home ‘in the middle of nowhere,’ as he once desired. But having designed his HDB house with a lot of character and warmth, home is where he shares special moments with his wife, Hoon Aiping, a 38-year-old Associate Director in a Private Bank, two young children and a dog.

“I'm friends with all the aunties and uncles now, so when I go out we say ‘hello, hello.’”

Asked to describe his ideal home, Australian expat Simon Kearney says, “in the middle of nowhere, off the grid, with a big vegetable garden.” Not exactly the Singapore lifestyle! But Simon has no regrets. His 5-room HDB flat he shares with his Singaporean wife, Aiping, his two children, and a rescue dog named Santa, now defines comfort and familiarity for the entrepreneur.

In fact, Simon has stayed in the same Singapore neighbourhood longer than anywhere else, “I've lived in over 40 houses in my life, I’ve moved around a lot.”

The former newspaper reporter came to the Republic in 2008, accepting a communications position from a billionaire philanthropist. During that time he met Aiping, who was working for the same benefactor. The couple married in 2012.

Read: Eligibility for buying an HDB flat

Matching their wants

At first, they rented a tiny walk-up in Tiong Bahru. “We felt we were always walking into walls,” remembers Aiping. After five years there, they were ready to find a larger place of their own — and start a family.

They wanted a home near Tiong Bahru. Unlike Simon, Aiping didn’t – and still doesn’t – want to live “in the middle of nowhere”. So she did the house-hunting. She shortlisted properties using PropertyGuru, but found it was difficult to find places that met their criteria.

“It took us three years to find this place,” she says, “because it's hard to get a place that's centrally located and has the size that we were looking for.”

They eventually found one that was quite within their means: a spacious 5-room flat in Jalan Bukit Merah.

A 5-room HDB flat in Jalan Bukit Merah for a interracial couple.

In the middle of it all

While happy with the location, Aiping was not quite thrilled with the interiors. Simon saw the potential to show off his design skills and took control of the design.

He knocked down several walls and created a space closer to his Australian upbringing. The raw wood shelves and colourful carpets give the home a country feel — further amplified by the bright red barn door off the living room.

A 5-room HDB flat in Jalan Bukit Merah for a interracial couple.

The house’s focal point is the central kitchen, large enough for a kitchen table. “It’s like the area for everything that’s going on,” says Simon. Aiping agrees. “It's very functional and inviting.” The room has become the family’s favourite spot.

A 5-room HDB flat in Jalan Bukit Merah for a interracial couple.

Centre of their home, centre of their hearts.

While the interior is an Australian sanctuary, the flat is set within some very familiar Singaporean surroundings. The family love being near the Green Corridor, where Simon takes the dog for a run every morning. “I'm friends with all the aunties and uncles now, so when I go out we say ‘hello, hello.’”

“I think the neighbourhood's great, and the location is amazing,” says Aiping. “It's 10 minutes to Chinatown, to work, to Orchard, to Sentosa. Everywhere, really.”

A 5-room HDB flat in Jalan Bukit Merah for a interracial couple.

With such a perfect spot, would they ever consider moving? Perhaps yes, but for a very Singaporean reason: to live closer to the school they desire for their children. For now, the Kearneys are perfectly happy where they are.

Read more stories of people and their home journeys. Or find a home on PropertyGuru via thousands of listings. 

Read Next